Tuesday May 10 – Saturday May 14 (8.30pm w/ 5.30pm shows added for Friday and Saturday)
If you go to plotspoiler.com TheatreReview you’ll get the jokes ruined and not a lot else. Occupational hazard of comedy reviewing of course, you want to tell people about the great show – or warn them away, and either way that requires explaining the material. Except it doesn’t. I’m not going to ruin any of the jokes folks. Nor will I even attempt them. That would deny James Acaster his charm and craft – for here is a comedian so well formed as to work not only with great lines (formidable joke-writing) but also the full power of delivery, in his use of words, his choice, his pronunciation and repetition, his accent, the foibles that come from things being near-lost in translation and there’s also the revelry that comes from the escape into absurdism, a stunning range of physical gestures too including transmogrification of posture – put simply, he’s a Total Package.
You go to a James Acaster show for funny lines, shaggy-dog stories, call-backs that arrive on top of call-backs, visual cues and puns. You go to a James Acaster show for a full experience. You go to a James Acaster show to be transported – taken into the world he’s creating (seemingly on the spot, off the cuff, on the fly, in the moment…when in fact it’s not quite ever any of those things, it’s so deeply crafted) and New Zealanders have been going to James Acaster shows for a while now. A sell-out across the 2013 and 2014 festivals he’s returned with a new set, “Reset” and has added two shows to his Wellington run (one of which has already sold out, as I write you might just get tickets for Friday’s 5.30pm show and would be wise to).
From belly laughs to cerebral chuckles this is a comedian that works the audience hard, that shows he’s working hard, that is mostly deeply in control of his act, a shtick transcended.
There were moments where he lost the crowd – probably intentionally – but there was a hint of lack of polish. I liked that though, I liked the one or two near-fumbles. It meant he cared, wasn’t coasting, you could see him knuckling down when he needed to, doing the work. He won us back.
For the most part it was tour-de-force, and even when it wasn’t quite – it was still the work of someone well on their way towards visionary. A tip of the hat to Stewart Lee, no doubt, with the projected autobiography that forms part of the thread of the show. I thought of Lee’s love of language and devilish details – staccato stammers and timed, written pauses. I thought that Acaster must have been listening, watching, learning.
But that never got in the way of enjoying James Acaster for who he is and what he does.
And if there’s a better act at this year’s Comedy Festival I haven’t seen it. *
*Disclaimer: I hate the Comedy Festival and this is the only show I’m attending – that said it was fucking tremendous.